Chinese President Xi Jinping steps out from behind China's flag as he takes his position for his joint news conference with President Barack Obama, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A former top Department of Energy official revealed details about the Chinese government’s efforts to conduct espionage against American technology, warning the United States must do more to protect U.S. innovation.
Paul Dabbar, who worked as the undersecretary for science at the Energy Department throughout the Trump administration, said his experience in that position gave him worrying insight into Beijing’s efforts to recruit U.S. scientists and to abscond with scientific knowledge.
The intelligence community has spoken about the challenge posed by China, and the FBI has repeatedly warned about its Thousand Talents economic espionage program.
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“When I joined the U.S. Department of Energy in 2017, I was briefed about how pervasively the Chinese Communist Party had woven itself into the U.S. government’s research and innovation efforts,” Dabbar wrote in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal. “Traditionally, labs and academic institutions around the world and their researchers work on projects together. And periodically, foreign institutions, including in China, compensate Americans for their efforts.”
Dabbar warned that “the Communist Party began to use these interactions to recruit people for their technology-appropriation programs.”
He also said the problem ran deep when he joined the Energy Department at the start of former President Donald Trump’s presidency.
“I learned that people working at the Energy Department’s National Laboratories had significant engagements with China,” Dabbar wrote this week. “Some were paid by one of the many Chinese Communist Party Thousand Talents Plans while concurrently working at sensitive U.S. government labs. These agreements often required technology transfer as well as support for recruiting more members to the TTPs.”
The warning comes after FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate in August that the FBI was opening a new China-related counterintelligence investigation every 12 hours , saying that China “represents the potential of who is going to dominate the most significant industry sectors” for decades into the future.
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Wray said the FBI was trying to work “very closely” with universities on how to deal with Chinese influence efforts, adding: “The whole way in which the talent plans are abused involves funding of researchers from the Chinese government to essentially steal U.S. taxpayer-funded research here. And so our investigations inevitably get into that type of issue.”
Wray also warned about the Chinese government’s spying campaign in August and vowed that the FBI was “not taking our foot off the gas” despite the Justice Department shuttering the China Initiative earlier this year.
“Each and every day, the men and women of the FBI are taking on the Chinese government’s broad-scale economic espionage campaign targeting our ideas, our innovation, our economic security,” Wray said.
That came on the heels of a bombshell Senate report revealing that the Federal Reserve has been repeatedly targeted by the Chinese government as part of a large-scale economic espionage effort.
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Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said in March that the Chinese government remains the “absolutely unparalleled” long-term priority for the U.S. intelligence community.
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